The FBI's Use of
In today's electronic age, an invasion of privacy is only a point and click
away. This fact has become increasingly clear in recent days as Congress has begun to ask
questions about a new online wiretapping system that the FBI calls "Carnivore."
The system forces Internet service providers to attach a black box to their networks -
essentially a powerful computer running specialized software - through which all of their
subscribers' communications may flow.
In traditional wiretaps, the government is
required to minimize its interception of non-incriminating - or innocent - communications.
But Carnivore does just the opposite by scanning through tens of millions of emails and
other communications from innocent Internet users as well as the targeted suspect.
It is as though the FBI suddenly believes it
has the right and legal authority to send agents into the Post Office to rip open each and
every mailbag and search for one person's letters. To use another analogy, Carnivore is
like the telephone company being forced to give the FBI access to all the calls on its
network when it only has permission to seek the calls for one subscriber.
Dozens of politicians from across the
political spectrum have called on Attorney General Janet Reno to suspend the use of
Carnivore until Congress can determine its legality. Take action now to reinforce that
message with your Members of Congress and President Clinton!
Put a Leash On Carnivore!
Carnivore is unnecessary.
Internet service providers can and have already
been providing law enforcement agencies with the information for which they have a court
order. There is no need for the dragnet that Carnivore represents when ISPs have already
been zeroing in on legitimate targets.
The Fourth Amendment is built on the premise that law enforcement
cannot be trusted with unsupervised authority when it conducts a search.
To accept the FBI's arguments in favor of
Carnivore, is to in essence reject that core premise of the Fourth Amendment by giving the
FBI carte blanche access to the communications of innocent people.
Carnivore comes at a time of record wiretapping by federal law
Last year, federal law enforcement conducted
more wiretaps in one year than had ever been conducted before. And search warrants for
online information from America Online subscribers doubled from 1998 to 1999. This is a
time when Congress and the Administration should be carefully examining the expansion of
wiretapping in this country, not authorizing a new potential mass invasion of the privacy
of law-abiding Americans.